Government Printers supervisor Humphrey Mumba has told Works and Supply Minister Felix Mutati, Thursday, that the institution has run out of paper and printing materials, citing lack of funds.

But Mutati disclosed that government secured about K15 million for operationalising the web press, which has been stranded for more than four years.

Speaking during Mutati’s visit at the Government Printer’s stand at the Show Grounds yesterday, Mumba complained that government has blocked a third-party account, which is normally run by the department, adding that new challenges, including lack of money and printing materials, have been caused as a result.

“We had a third-party account, which we used when we generate the income, that used to be our own account. Now, the government seems like they have blocked it. So, now, we just depend on the government for funding. So, we just have to wait upon the government for funding, that is when we buy materials. Mind you, we are a special department. The way we operate is so special in such a way that, we can never depend on the government for funding. Funding only comes maybe once in a quarter. This means that we have to wait for materials for a longer period of time, which never used to happen. Right now, we don’t have paper and some other printing materials so to say and to be general. So, we will wait for the government to fund us, but there is no money in the department! We have no capacity right now not until the government funds us, that’s when we will get the same money for the materials,” Mumba lamented.

But Mutati revealed that government has secured about K15 million through the supplementary budget approved by Parliament last month.

He explained the acquired funds would be aimed at operationalising the web press, which has been stranded for more than four years.

“The second major priority is one to do with Government Printers. As you recall, the President pronounced categorically that come 2021, the ballot papers must be printed in Zambia. In the very short-term, we have been able to secure, through the supplementary budget, almost K15 million, which was approved last month by Parliament. And this resource will be used in order to make the stranded web press operational so that it can begin to print and work. It will also be used for the support infrastructure so that this press, which has been idle for almost four years, can begin to produce results,” Mutati explained.

He added that there is an elevated level of appetite for developers to develop idle assets, including Herbert Young, which had been listed for development.

“As you recall a few months ago, we had what we called market sounding. And the main aim of this programme was for us to tackle the limitation in office accommodation against a backdrop that government doesn’t have enough resources to be able to construct office accommodation; against a backdrop that the solution to address this limitation is not to increase the levels of debt. And, therefore, we decided to adopt an approach, which is Public Private Partnership (PPP). So far, we have been able to complete the feasibility studies for the five sites. And we have prioritised three sites for development in the next few months. This is Herbert Young as one site, 314 Independence Avenue and CEDEP along Cairo road,” said Mutati.

“We remain very confident that within two months we shall have the first transition for the development of new office accommodation. In the conversations that we have had with financiers, with developers, the level of appetite is elevated. Everybody is very keen to do that. And if the conversation finishes nicely, we are bound to have the first financial centre in this region, which will also include office accommodation. So, for us it means sustainable economic empowerment by providing opportunity for those in construction.”